Joburg

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12min247724

In the same way a great image paired with an equally potent caption does for an article, so should an artist’s live performance do for an album. It makes it more endearing and grips the audience with a deep sense of engagement. Both artist and listener have been deprived of this exchange for the most part of the year due to the pandemic, settling for the seemingly arduous virtual concerts.

Zoë Modiga’s sophomore album Inganekwane is a body of work that has left many music lovers craving to experience it live since it was released four months ago.  “I miss people buth’wami, there’s nothing like it,” says Zoë.  “I consider myself to be an empath, I really enjoy to feel people’s energy and having that fuel me, where I’m not fuelling myself because virtual performances feel like I’m fuelling myself but the audience doesn’t understand how much of an importance they actually have in creating the world,” she says.

With only a handful of us at Constitution Hill against the women’s prison, mostly made up of the crew capturing performances which are being streamed to thousands, Zoë gave a consistent performance that should’ve been experienced live by many warm bodies at the Blooming Sounds in Joburg. My eyes closed, taking in the music, the sound of her voice is as pure live as it is on record.

“With the virtual space we’re in right now, I suppose me trying to be consistent is the understanding that I know it’s an awkward place for everyone to be in, I know we all like to doll up when we go watch our favourite musicians so I think that consistency is not taking that for granted ukuthi people are gonna be in PJs, they probably don’t want to watch a show in PJs, but they’re gonna tune in anyway and that means something to me. I suppose another thing, it is the music [and] it is the passion but also the product and I feel like if you want to exist in spaces where people respect the brand as well, you need to be able to do it professionally, regardless of the circumstances that you find yourself in,” Zoë tells me after her performance.

Zoe Modiga performing at Constitution Hill, with Banda Banda behind her. Photo by Sip The Snapper
CONNECTING WITH HER PEOPLE: Zoë Modiga performing at Constitution Hill, with Banda Banda behind her. Photo by Sip The Snapper

As Stogie T gets his turn on the Blooming Sounds stage, between the historic walls of Constitution Hill I find a quiet space to talk to Zoë about her work. Inganekwane, a Nguni word for fairy-tale, is a project that’s preceded by adjectives such as ‘moving’ ‘divine’ and ‘healing’. Poignantly released at a time when black youth is enamoured with being woke and is having conversations about what it means to be black in this world- it’s the perfect soundtrack.

Stogie T at Blooming Sounds in Joburg. Photo by Sip The Snapper
SMOKING THA STAGE: DJ P-Kuttah and Stogie T at Blooming Sounds in Joburg. Photo by Sip The Snapper

“This album is about a lot of conversations that I had been having for three years after Yellow The Novel, my debut album was made and released. There’s a lot of conversations about the state of black people and what’s that like. For the longest time I felt I couldn’t express it in my language, but I began to be affirmed by my audience you know, that’s the power that my audience has and that music lovers have, is that sometimes they can cause you to move into spaces that you would not qualify yourself for. So even with the response of the album, it feels the same way. People are qualifying you. It’s such an affirming thing because for me music is a personal thing, but for me the motive I have is to move people’s souls first and foremost before I formally get recognised formally through awards and those kinds of things,” says Zoë.

Zoe having a vibe on stage at Blooming Sounds in Joburg. Photo by Sip The Snapper
KUMNANDI LA: Zoë having a vibe on stage at Blooming Sounds in Joburg. Photo by Sip The Snapper

Her music moves more than just the soul. Her performance of Intsha had the tiny audience dancing, and probably a lot more streaming viewers’ hips swaying. “It always makes me lose my breath and twerk myself into a disaster,” a panting Zoë says while on stage. “It’s a song dedicated to the youth of 1976 and it’s a song that reminds us that young people are always part of watershed moments, we always make big changes.”

As James Brown’s message on Say It Loud, I’m Black & I’m Proud cannot not be misunderstood, so is Zoë’s Abantu. It’s a candid conversation she has with Bantu people- touching on black on black violence, self-image, and poverty but yet the song is mighty reassuring. “This song is dear to my heart because it’s part of all the conversations we’ve been having. It’s a beautiful love letter because it’s a song that puts us in a place of realising that we commit so much violences [sic] amongst ourselves as black bodies and part of that is calling systems into place that have allowed us to think in this way,” she says during her performance.

Zoë doing her thing at Blooming Sounds. Photo by Sip The Snapper
IYAGIDHA INTOMBI: Zoë’s dance moves display how in-shape the artist is. Photo by Sip The Snapper

With her trademark brush-cut, rocking a leather dress and snakeskin print ankle boots Zoë looked elegant. A glimpse of her Instagram page will let you know, that she’s an aesthetically-conscious one, and is comfortable in her style.

The moving imagery from Inganekwane, that takes us back to her childhood.
QUEEN IN THA KRAAL: The moving imagery from Inganekwane, that takes us back to her childhood.

It was her vision that inspired the album cover art, helped by an amazing team of creatives in its execution. “I’m blessed to have people who believe in my visions,” she says.  The idea for her cover stems from a visit to her paternal grandmother as a 5 year-old KwaMpisi, in rural KwaZulu-Natal.  “I’d always have this moment of looking into cows for a long period of time, and she’d [grandmother] always look at me like I was crazy. That’s the power of this record that it’s allowed me to really look back into childhood, look back at what’s made me who I am, right now.”

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10min4223

AT the time of typing this, the number of COVID-19 deaths in South Africa stands at 15 168. Fatalities, especially when expressed in big numbers can simply go over one’s head as just statistics. But even one death hits hard when you lose someone you love.

I lost my brother, Thulani Ntiwane two months ago and this writing is no way about the virus. But a way of healing and honouring my brother who was by far the biggest influence in my life.

So while awaiting a match between Thulani’s beloved Real Madrid taking on Alavés in a La Liga game, we watched a recorded episode from season five of Black-ish. Aptly titled “Black History Month” the arch in which Octavia Spencer makes a special appearance, where her character pays homage to black persons she believes should never be forgotten. It’s only right I jot this, so that Thulani is never forgotten in the jam of all these numbers.

It is said that influence is when you’re not the one talking, and yet your words fill the room. The influence my brother had on me was just that.

As his name suggests, he was a quiet, reserved and nonchalant lanky dude who understood the power of being an African, who loved music, appreciated sport and who had reverence for knowledge.

HE NURTURED MY EAR IN MUSIC

Thulani would always say that I’m his student, to which I’d reluctantly (’cause of pride) admit. My brother’s music collection, over a thousand discs, was like a radio station’s playlist. A childhood friend of his would always joke that Thulani should be a music producer or a DJ.

In his collection you will find The Legendary Roots Crew, Khabzela’s Mekonko, Busi Mhlongo, Incognito, Mfaz’Omnyama, Maxwell, Masibuyele Kujehova, Brothers Of Peace, Gang Starr, Bill Withers, Hotstix, Lenny Kravitz, DJ FRESH, and so on and so on.

In the mid-90s my Thulani appeared in the Tembisan newspaper, after winning a music quiz that ran in the local publication. He walked away with 2PAC’s All Eyez On Me double-disc.

Thulani was a big advocate for buying original albums. He enjoyed tagging all of his CD covers with the trademark ‘Thulas’…this too was etched on me because, when I started buying CDs, I vividly remember scribbling ‘Bongs’ on my Like Water For Chocolate album cover. He shared music with me, this is why I enjoying doing the same for others today.

I grew up listening to a lot of music, hence I never had any problems even in my career when I was presented with the opportunity to interview great artists such as Musiq Soulchild, Ray Phiri, Mary J Blige or Raphael Saadique- I’d always find confidence in the knowledge my brother instilled in me. I could sense his pride-nothing egotistical, but happy that a seed he planted had sprouted in ways he also couldn’t fathom.

HE INTRODUCED ME TO JOBURG

Thulani was the one who showed me Joburg and how to carry myself in the big city. It must’ve been around 2004 when I first went to Carlton Centre, where we took that long and seemingly unending walk on Small Street. He bought me lunch at legendary boxer Baby Jake Matlala’s restaurant while we waited for the movie Troy to start-also my first time at the cinema.

Although I later grew to know the city for myself, it was Thulani who literally held my hand when I first came to eGoli.

HE SPARKED MY INTEREST IN MEDIA

I remember the days when the YFM studios were still in Rosebank, at the mall. I will never forget the feeling of being inside the Y Store-it felt like I was right inside their studios. He somehow knew it would interest me.From then on, the love for journalism, albeit broadcast journalism, began.

It was Thulani who got me reading newspapers every day. He got a subscription for the paper, and even after he moved out of home, he never stopped the paper from being delivered. Making sure that I carry on reading and engaging with the world around me.

HE CONSCIENTISED ME

This happened through music, books and in conversation. I was listening to the Wolves interlude on the Dead Prez Let’s Get Free album recently and it hit me, that at 10/11 years-old I was listening and reciting lyrics about imperialism and how evil the white man is without real comprehension of what was being said.

I remember when I told him that we’re reading Animal Farm in high school. His strong interest in the book (which he later borrowed) grew my interest.

I’ve read Steve Biko’s I Write What I Like a couple of times. I was first intrigued by the title, but more fascinated that my brother was reading such content. I went in and gobbled me some Biko and nothing was the same.

I doubt Tha Bravado, which has a strong voice in telling stories that are for Bantus by Bantus and inspired by Bantus, if it weren’t for Thulani.

SHARED THE BEAUTY OF SPORT

It’s very normal to support the team your dad or your older brother supported. My dad was a Kaizer Chiefs fan and so is my eldest brother. But I became an Orlando Pirate fan and a Gooner because I grew up watching Thulani cheer on Amabhakaniya and Arsenal.

He taught me how to watch the game of soccer. I remember watching that FIFA 2002 World Cup Semi-final between England and Brazil. Sport really brought us together.

I’m the rugby guy in the fam and he played a bit of cricket and soccer . We both had a strong love for sport, hence we spent his last moments watching a Real Madrid game. Whenever we’d see each other we would catch up on what’s happening, on and off the field.

Till we meet again bro,

Your faithful student.

Thulani Ntiwane is survived by his wife and four kids. His mother, two brothers a sister and two nieces. He was 44 years-old.

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6min6000

“It’s a beautiful thing man, music is a beautiful thing,” Mac Miller jokingly said on his NPR Tiny Desk performance. But nothing could be closer to the truth. Listening to music and singing together has been shown to impact neuro-chemicals in the brain, many of which play a role in closeness and connections.

The music-events industry is built on this fact. But not all events harness the beauty of umculo. Cue the Beast, People Series that takes place tomorrow at 4ROOM Creative Village in Tembisa. It’s a sequence of gigs around Gauteng, which was founded by DJs and producers from various parts of the province.

The Name and the logo

It includes founder DJ BlaQt from Vosloorus, Soweto’s DJ Medicine, DJ Killa Kane and Backdraft of Mambisa. “The gig started in Vosloorus as Beats, People & Vosloorus. This is the second installment in Tembisa, we’re headed to Soweto with the next gig,” Backdraft tells me. “What connected us and still connects us to this day is our love for the music and I believe it is the reason our name starts with Beats,” Backdraft, who is the musician in the clique says.

“The purpose of the show is to grow audience, have people appreciate what we do because we’ve realised that ja, the vibes that we bring are not necessarily mainstream and is not what people get all the time. They actually want to get it. We are bringing it to them and taking it to different hoods,” says Protea Glen’s DJ Medicine.

THE CLIQUE [from L-R]: DJ BlaQt, DJ Medicine and Backdraft. Photo by Backdraft
THE CLIQUE [from L-R]: DJ BlaQt, DJ Medicine and Backdraft. Photo by Backdraft
Much as this is about music and how it brings people together, the guys understand the potential ecosystem such a movement presents for stakeholders themselves as well as entrepreneurs e lokxion. “…because the whole thing is for us to do our shit you know, benefit from our shit and grow our shit with the people that like what we’re doing, without compromising the vibe. But also including the people that are in that hood we’re going to, and making it grow in that hood,” Medicine says.

There’s already merchandise like T-shirts and hoodies sold at their gigs. The merch is simply laden with the aesthetically pleasing name of the movement which is also their logo. “Well the name was simply to do with what my vision was; the music and all people in and around the hood or townships,” BlaQt explaining the origin of the name. “Tembisa will be our second edition of the Beast, People Series…we had great success in my hood. We’re preparing for the next gig as we’re talking.”

Vosloo was a success that set a high bar for the succeeding hosts, but Backdraft is convinced his Tembisa has a unique proposition. “Our geographic position, we are where Ekurhuleni starts or ends, depending on how one views this. We attract people as far as Pretoria, Centurion, Midrand, Alexandra, Daveyton, Kempton Park and even Joburg. We are a melting pot for different cultures and offerings. We have our very own celebrities, artists and DJs who hardly ship their skill beyond hood boarders, therefore providing an experience that one will only experience in our hood,” he says.

The gig at 4ROOM has eight DJs on the line-up with Backdraft himself and the Musa Mashiane Trio as the night’s only live performers.

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10min2240

“Unfortunately no females entered the Beat Maker of the Year Beat Battle and this is something we are going to address in 2020 and get more females interested in taking part.” said Beat Makers Market founder Enzo.

The absence of females at the Beat Maker of the Year Beat Battle was a glaring gap in the contest. “I know there are some ladies who are interested in the art of beat making and we just need to make sure they come out and participate,” Enzo said.

Cyrus Beatz was the eventual winner of Beat Maker of the Year in the battle. “I came here for a win and I believed that you know what, I’m gonna take it. Last year I was in Durban with the same mentality, but then…this time was different because I’m going through personal stuff, so in the process nje of going through the stress I only prepared three days ago.”

THA CHAMPION: Cyrus Beatz on stage at the Beat Makers Marker. Photo by Sip The Snapper
THA CHAMPION: Cyrus Beatz on stage at the Beat Makers Marker. Photo by Sip The Snapper

On a sombre spring afternoon in Johannesburg after “xenophobic” attacks gripped the city that week, the Beat Makers Market took place at the Good Luck Bar in Newtown. The ambiance of the event was hassle-free and communal, satisfying to both ear and eye enough to please the production geek and the average music lover.  With more sponsorship this year, growth of the Beat Makers Market is visible, since being found in 2017.

“…I think this year, in our third year we’re definitely heading towards the right direction. We’re growing, people understand the concept you know what I mean, even the vibe is dope you can feel it as you walk in, there’s this aura in the air that beat makers are out here to share, celebrate and inspire each other through beats,” said Enzo speaking to Tha Bravado after the end of the Beat Battle.

Ninjas vibing to the Silent Disco at the Beat Makers Market at Good Luck Bar. Photo by Sip The Snapper
Ninjas vibing to the Silent Disco at the Beat Makers Market at Good Luck Bar. Photo by Sip The Snapper

One of the dope features of this year’s program had patrons vibing like zombies with headphones on, in the Silent Disco. There were three DJs simultaneously playing their sets, but with no sound outlet in the form of a speaker, but a limited number of headphones were dished out to attendees. “We had about 80 to 100 headphones and you could basically choose your own DJ. Our tag line is ‘Beat Makers Market where music and technology meet’ and today we were trying to show people that, that music and technology meet-somebody walked in and asked ‘where’s the music?’ and started seeing people dancing, and was like ‘ooooh!’.”

While that was happening, YFM’s DJ Sabby hosted the legendary King Don Father Mandla Spriki of Kalawa Jazmee together with Tweezy on the main-stage in the Power Beats Panel discussion.

From L-R: Spikiri, DJ Sabby and Tweezy at the Beat Makers Market sharing knowledge. Photo by Sip The Snapper
From L-R: Spikiri, DJ Sabby and Tweezy at the Beat Makers Market sharing knowledge. Photo by Sip The Snapper

Enzo defended the judges’ objective stand, regardless of how rowdy the audience became in the Beat Battle, at times seemingly swaying their ultimate decisions. “The judges we had have made experience of judging competitions so they knew what they were doing and who they felt to be beat maker of the year.”

DJ C-Live playing one of the Silent Disco sets. Photo by Sip The Snapper
DJ C-Live playing one of the Silent Disco sets. Photo by Sip The Snapper

Battlekat, Rashid Kay and Nyambz had the responsibility of adjudicating on who the beat maker of the year would be. The criteria was broken down into categories such as creativity, technical ability (the mixing and mastering), diversity as well as crowd reaction.

“You might have a beat that has four elements, but those four elements might just be captivating for the crowd. Do you reward the guy that was technically more superior or the guy that has the crowd? You know with Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy, it’s just him and that was a very big song. I think it’s solely debated on crowd reaction, but the bad thing about that is that sometime you don’t have a neutral crowd, but that’s why we’re here to balance it out,” Nyambz said.

THA JUDGING PANEL (from L-R):
THA JUDGING PANEL (from L-R): Rashid Kay, Battlekat and Nyambz. Photo by Sip The Snapper

The night’s performers were forced to do their thang in front of a handful of people, after an exodus post the beat maker’s battle. “Moving forward, the Beat Makers Battles will be structured in a way that involves breaks between, with performances.”

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6min1770

A MUSIC video is to a song, what an image with a good caption is to an article. It takes the story forward.

Just five months ago Riky Rick said he was taking a break from the spotlight in the music, but last Friday he surprised most with the release of a spirited track, I Can’t Believe It (Macoins) with gripping visuals.

The song and the video presentation is currently being slept on in the country. According to Riky Rick, some television channels won’t air the video because of the content. He said this while thanking MTV Base on Twitter, for playing the video on their platform.

The ill-judgement of some of our broadcasters is perplexing. Local broadcasters aren’t proactive in their presentation; they always prefer to follow a trend instead of being the ones to initiate the conversation. This is just one of the reasons why television lags behind the net, but not everybody in South Africa can afford to watch videos on YouTube due to exorbitant prices of data.

I can imagine an ocean of people chanting the chorus, when Riky Rick performs this joint live. He repeatedly says he wants more money, then sounds in disbelief in the hook, not because he has gotten what he wants, but at what it cost him it seems. That’s what the visuals relayed.

But instead of money, a group of eccentric individuals seem to desire freedom more than anything- to be themselves within an uncomplimentary society. The freedom comes at a cost though, as one of them commits suicide, which then sparks the revolt. The interesting part is that, everyone fighting for something is part of the riot, not only the small group of friends who lost a comrade.

Directed by Adriaan Louw, the video took the conversation stared by Riky Rick in his rhymes, to another level. They chose the perfect time to shoot this, managing to capture beautiful light under Joburg skies, while Marco Filby’s Art Direction was complimented by the cast’s believability and wardrobe.

With the abrasive, in-your face beat Riky Rick reminds everybody who he is in the music and creative space. Steeped in Hip Hop braggadocio, from the first verse he states why 10 years in the game, he still manages to remain relevant throughout the country. But it’s his second verse on which he bluntly raps

I’m in my element, my regiment

Taking over is imminent,

Drop one song per year, and stay prevalent

Old niggers say my name to stay relevant

I couldn’t help but think of Stogie T when I heard those lines, despite the fact that the two recently settled their feud, which was sparked by Cassper Nyovest saying Stogie did nothing for him, during an acceptance speech at the South African Hip Hop Awards last year. iVenda LaKwaMashu, as Riky Rick is known on Twitter, was in Nyovest’s corner and also slammed Stogie for claiming other artists’ success.

The song has a similar refrain as Pick You Up, which came out earlier this year but unlike that joint, he raps in vernac on I Can’t Believe It (Macoins) and sounds original, rejuvenated and grimier. iVenda LaKwaMashu isn’t the lyrical-miracle typa rapper who will get battle kats like Kriss AntiB and Don Veedo salivating at his every line. But his hooks are catchy and he speaks his truth and a lot of people can relate to that shit.


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